The Cortisol Connection Diet
By Shawn Talbott, PhD
Hunter House (2004)
Reviewed by Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson
"If you've always struggled to lose weight or get down to your target weight only to have the weight return, it's time to try The Cortisol Connection Diet. From this book, you'll learn how to use food and dietary supplements to control cortisol, blood sugar and how many calories you burn; and (you'll learn) why you can eat all the foods you love, because by changing your metabolic response to food you can control how many calories you burn off or store as fat."
The author emphasizes paying attention to quantity, quality and timing. He emphasizes whole grains, lean protein sources, adding a source of fat to each meal and snack and fiber. Using one's hand is discussed as a visual tool to determine the quantity that should be eaten of different types of foods and the plan urges eating three meals and three snacks throughout the day. The author heavily promotes specific supplements that are meant to help with "cortisol control," "blood-sugar control," "thermogenesis" and "general metabolic support." The book provides one day of a sample diet, which includes a column for supplements, water and a space for recording minutes of exercise and sleep and several blank daily logs for the reader to use when they start their diet.
The book gives some good information on choosing healthier foods and the tool that describes using one's hand to determine a good portion size is helpful. The one-day sample diet is fairly well-balanced; the inclusion of water, exercise and sleep in the menu plan is a good idea to help a consumer remember other aspects of healthy living.
Nutritional Pros and Cons
The book promotes a dizzying list of recommended supplements. While the author does not mention brand names, it is important for the consumer to realize the author is (or was) involved in the development and marketing of CortiSlim. The Federal Trade Commission investigated and ultimately fined Dr. Talbott and his business partners for what the FTC deemed to be false or unsubstantiated product claims regarding CortiSlim.
The diet plan itself is actually quite restrictive; even though the author claims one can "eat all the foods you love," the consumer is advised to avoid two ingredients - high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. While it is not bad advice to try to avoid these two ingredients, as they are markers for more processed foods and the latter indicates the presence of trans-fats, it will certainly make for a restrictive diet if one were to eliminate all foods with these ingredients.
The one-day sample menu, when analyzed, provided about 44 percent of its calories from fat and was high in saturated fats (note: serving sizes were not given by the author, as he encourages the reader to use their hand as a guide for serving sizes, so best estimates were used). It certainly would have helped to have had more than one day of a sample diet.
Although the author gives results from various studies, the book does not provide references for any of the specific claims, leaving it up to the consumer to take his word for it or to research the claims on their own (although there is a short "resources" list at the end - two books also written by the author, a Web site he contributes to and two books by other medical doctors; no scientific journals were cited).
This is a complicated read that turns out to be a basic, fairly strict "diet" with a ton of supplements thrown on top for good measure. Some of the claims the book makes are certainly true and backed by valid scientific study, but many of the claims are questionable in their validity and the author does not offer where he got the scientific "evidence" behind most of it. It reads rather like an infomercial, with lots of "scientific" jargon, exaggerated claims and huge promises.